by Barb Weir
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
The U.S. National Park Service has denied a permit to the ANSWER Coalition for a demonstration in support of the unemployed in Freedom Plaza during the Presidential Inauguration on January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Instead, the space will be reserved for guests of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, which are mainly wealthy corporations and campaign donors.
I spoke with NPS spokesperson Forrest Wilder about the decision.
Barb Weir: Mr. Wilder, Freedom Plaza is traditionally a place for free speech activity. The ANSWER Coalition is saying that your decision is against free speech. What is your response?
Forrest Wilder: That’s nonsense, Barb. It’s just the opposite. The Supreme Court has determined that money is free speech. Corporations can afford a lot more free speech than the ANSWER Coalition and the unemployed. I think corporations will tell you that they have plenty of free speech. ANSWER and the unemployed are welcome to have as much free speech as they want wherever they can afford it, such as the parking lots in suburban Maryland and Virginia.
Corporations can afford a lot more free speech than the ANSWER Coalition and the unemployed.
Barb Weir: Mr. Wilder, the inauguration is being held this year on Martin Luther King Day and Freedom Plaza was named for King’s quotes on freedom in the “I have a dream” speech that he wrote in the hotel facing the plaza. Don’t you think it’s more appropriate to provide the plaza to the disenfranchised folks that he represented?
Forrest Wilder: Nobody is more disenfranchised than corporations, Barb. Even today, they have failed to win the right to vote or to marry outside their community or to run for office. The Supreme Court has declared them to be persons, but do they really have the same rights as others in our society? Earlier this month a driver in California was fined for being in the commute lane despite the fact that a corporation was in the passenger seat and had the corporate documents to prove it.
Barb Weir: But who elected President Obama? Whom does he represent? Who are his constituents? Whom will he defend while he is in office?
Forrest Wilder: I’m glad you asked, Barb. President Obama is well aware to whom he owes his election victory and who will depend upon him while he is in office, and that is why they will be present in Freedom Plaza. Believe me, this administration knows who its constituents are, and cares very deeply about them.